Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: Remote KVM With Minicom Smart 116 IP

We recently sent products for review on ChannelWeb - the first is the Smart 116 IP, is a single user digital KVM switch.

Review: Remote KVM With Minicom Smart 116 IP

A KVM switch may not be the most mission-critical piece of equipment, but it's sure handy to have. And they are getting even more convenient.
The KVM's job is very straightforward: share a single keyboard, video, and mouse across multiple machines. With the prevalence of LCD monitors instead of CRTs, it's not as preposterous to have a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse for each PC at the desk, but it's not the most economical use of precious workspace. The KVM cleans up the desk and makes switching from one machine to another a more efficient process. Some of the modern KVM switches work over IP networks, making it possible to switch to machines located a certain distance away.
Minicom Advanced Systems sent two products from its KVM lineup to the Test Center for review. The first, the Smart IP 116, is a single user digital KVM switch. The other, the PX, is a palm-sized KVM-over-IP device.
The Smart IP 116 resembles a plain networking switch. It's a 1U, half-sized unit weighing a slightly less than five pounds. There are 16 RJ-45 ports for connecting servers to the switch, along with a LAN port, a serial port, a RJ-11 flash port, and ports for the video, keyboard, and mouse. The keyboard and mouse ports are PS/2.
The servers are connected to the switch using a dongle with a video and USB connector (PS2 connectors are also available) on one end and a RJ45 port on the other. There's a separate model specifically for Sun hardware, but they support Windows 98 SE or later, Mac OS, Sun, SGI, and modern Linux distributions.
A CAT5 cable connects the ROCC (RICC over cable) dongle to the switch, so the servers can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) away. Power is drawn over the keyboard PS/2 port or the USB port so an additional power adapter for each device is unnecessary. This simplifies cable management, with only a single cable extending from the server to the switch.
Setup is straightforward. After connecting the servers, a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the 116 IP, it is plugged in and powered on. The LAN port should be connected to the network switch. Depending on how the switch is set up, access can be local or remote.
The Smart 116 IP grants BIOS-level control over the connected server, regardless of the connection method. For remote connections, data is encrypted through the 128-bit SSL protocol over a Web browser. To access the target server, the Web browser uses HTTPS to point to the server IP address. The screen is drawn using Active X control. Internet Explorer 6 or higher is required.
The remote session in the browser is fairly responsive, without a lot of the lag or problems with the refresh rate commonly seen in other remote access tools. The session window includes the name of the target server (which can be renamed in the Web config to a more user-friendly name) as well as a toolbar that allows the user to switch between other servers.
While the unit ships with a default IP address, it automatically picks up a new one from the network's DHCP server when powered on. For networks wanting to assign a static IP address to the Smart 116 IP, the Web-browser-based configuration interface makes this a simple process. The network settings, security settings, and firmware upgrades are all handled through this interface.
Administrators can also create users through the interface to control who has access to the servers and the level of access. The "View-only" access is convenient for situations when it's necessary to let users see what's happening for a given server, but not to give keyboard or mouse control, or to restrict which servers they can view. Regardless of access level, only one user can have control of the session, although multiple users can access the same server at the same time. Reviewers were able to use this level of access to simulate a WebEx or LiveMeeting experience where people could remotely see what was happening on a live server.
Solution providers can install this switch on a customer site to simplify how they access and manage customer servers. The user-access level can be configured to give them access to the servers, and with the remote session capability, solution providers can do most management tasks from their office without making the trip to the customer. Having BIOS-level access -- being able to restart the machine, go into the BIOS and check what is happening on the hardware level, to make changes to the configuration even before the OS (and related software) even starts -- can make a huge difference during an emergency trouble-shooting session.
While there are plenty of cheap KVM switches on the market, the $1,146 price tag on the Smart 116 IP is well worth it just for its remote connectivity. On a per-port basis, the switch costs about $72 per server, assuming all 16 ports are being used, which is a bargain.

Not mentioned in the review, is the fact that in addition to the qualities of the product on it's own, the Smart 116 IP can be managed seamlessly by the II Centralized Access & Management System.

We recently updated our white paper on how to achieve cost-efficient data center growth through centralized management that leverages your existing KVM infrastructure. You can download it free by filling out the simple form.

1 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Storage Chassis said...

Hello friends,

The KVM switch is a switch allowing one keyboard, video monitor and mouse to be used on more than one computer without physically reconnecting them. Thanks a lot...